5 Best Photo Opportunites in Austin
Lee Van Grack
1. The Romantic Photo: Mount Bonnell
One of scenic Austin's most striking features is the winding Colorado River that cuts through downtown. Over the centuries, the water has carved high cliffs in the limestone bedrock that lies beneath the entire central Texas region. The cliffs offer visitors some of the best photo opportunities in Austin, and I have found the best spot to be Mount Bonnell. Located at 3800 Mt. Bonnell Drive, the cliff stands at an elevation of 780 feet - the highest peak within the city limits.
Mount Bonnell has a romantic and tragic history. According to the Handbook of Texas, the peak was previously called "Antoinette's Leap," after a woman supposedly jumped to her death while running from Indians who killed her fiancé.
Today, many couples visit Mount Bonnell to observe beautiful scenic Austin views of rolling hills covered in trees, the winding Colorado River, and the urban downtown skyline. Parking is available on site and it is free to enter the park, but visitors must hike to reach the peak. The steep stairs at the beginning of the climb can be a challenge and the pavilion at the top is sometimes crowded, but if you're into photography, the landscape makes it all worth it.
2. The Quirky Photo: "Hi, How Are You?" Frog Mural
For photos to prove you helped "Keep Austin Weird", drop by one of the city's weirdest icons: the "Hi, How Are You" frog mural on Guadalupe Street at 21st Street.
The one-story-tall painting of a stalky-eyed frog delivering its mannerly message doesn't look like much, but its rich cultural history truly makes it one of Austin's landmarks. Texas singer-songwriter Daniel Johnston painted the mural on the exterior wall of the Sound Exchange music store in the 1990s to commemorate "Jeremiah" the bullfrog from the song "Joy to the World." In 2004, the music store went out of business, and the new owner planned to demolish the mural to make way for windows for a new restaurant. The community responded with outrage and coordinated last minute protests, which garnered widespread media coverage, prompting the owner to reverse his plans and keep the mural.
For the best photo, it's advisable to visit in the late afternoon when the sun becomes softer and begins hitting the south-facing wall. (Also, street parking meters on Guadalupe Street are free after 6 PM.) After you snap your quirky photos, make sure to walk down culture-rich Guadalupe Street, which is known as "the drag" by locals.
3. The Fun Family Photo: Barton Springs Pool
Barton Springs Pool in Zilker Metropolitan Park is the ideal place for family photo opportunities. Austin's most loved park contains this 1,000-foot-long swimming pool with green, sparkling water that is crystal clear all the way to the bottom. Barton Springs is the fourth largest natural spring-fed pool in the nation, according to the Austin Parks and Recreation Department.
Also known as the "crown jewel of Austin," this scenic Austin institution has drawn people for centuries, starting with Native Americans who believed the water was sacred and could heal their wounds. The springs became a city park in 1917, and in 1929 a construction project turned it into what many Austinites enjoy today. Swimmers with enough fortitude can dive to the bottom near the jumping board and see the spring, which pumps out an estimated 27 million gallons of water per day.
For the best photo of your son or daughter swimming in the spring, buy a disposable underwater camera. Urge your child to dive right in, and get ready for the shot of a lifetime when he or she surfaces! The refreshing, spring-fed pool stays 68 degrees Fahrenheit year-round. When compared to 100-degree temperatures in the summer, the chilly water is shocking enough to cause me to gasp and cringe each time I jump in.
Barton Springs Pool is located within Zilker Park in Austin at 2101 Barton Springs Road, and parking is available on site. The cost to swim is $3 for adults and $1-2 for children, depending on their ages. There is a charge for parking in the summer months.
4. The Scenic Photo: Twin Falls on Austin's Greenbelt
As with Mount Bonnell, locals must thank the Colorado River for another strikingly scenic Austin feature: a series of tributary streams and surrounding greenery that the city converted to parkland known as the Greenbelt. It's the perfect photography landscape.
Austin's Twin Falls is one of the most popular and easiest-to-reach swimming holes along the Greenbelt when the water is flowing, of course. The trailhead and parking area is near South Mopac Boulevard and Capitol of Texas Highway. Coming from Capitol of Texas Highway, turn south on Mopac and remain on the frontage road instead of entering the highway. Hike the trail for about ten minutes until you come to the first major swimming hole, which is usually packed with men, women and children sunning themselves, splashing in the water, talking and laughing. Keep your camera handy for some of the best photo opportunity of your friends having fun in the sun.
5. The Classic Photo: Texas Capitol
With rolling green lawns, stately 19th-century architecture and an interesting history, the Texas Capitol features in many families' Austin travel photography albums. According to the State Preservation Board, the Capitol was designed in the Renaissance Revival style based on the architecture of 15th-century Italy, which features round arches and symmetry. The popular saying, "everything is bigger in Texas," holds true for the headquarters of state government. The Texas Capitol is the largest in square footage of all state Capitols - only the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. is bigger. However, Austin has D.C. beat in one area: the Texas Capitol is 15 feet taller than the nation's Capitol!
When I was a child, my siblings and I posed for photos on horse statues and antique cannons on the Capitol grounds, but most parents prefer a simple arm-in-arm pose with the 122-year-old pink granite statehouse rising behind them.
The Capitol is extremely easy to find: It's in the middle of Austin, at Congress Avenue and 11th Street, which happens to be one of the highest points in the city. Plus, state law decrees that no other buildings may block views of the Capitol from multiple locations in Austin. Call 512-463-2000 for information on visiting.
- Overview:Austin Travel Guide